The Badgers have lost two district games by a combined four points, including a 55-53 defeat at the hands of Burnet on Tuesday.
It’s still early in district, but the urgency to pick up some wins is starting to sink in for the Badgers. The stakes for tonight’s game at Liberty Hill are similar to those of Tuesday’s rivalry game.
“Will it make or break the season? No,” Lampasas head coach Aaron Nuckles said. “It sure would be big to get a win … If we don’t win one of those big ones sooner or later, they are [all] gonna be labeled as do-or-die.”
The Badgers and Burnet Bulldogs went back and forth for the lead on Tuesday. Lampasas was ahead 14-10 after the first quarter, but the Bulldogs had the edge at halftime.
Austin Martin hit a long fade-away jump shot at the buzzer that cut Burnet’s lead from three to one at the half.
Neither team could hold momentum for long in the second half, as they stayed within a few points of each other.
Burnet recorded five three-pointers in the first half, but none in the third quarter as Lampasas adjusted well to contain the outside game.
Nuckles said as the night went on, though, the Badgers struggled with their on-ball defense.
“There in the fourth, those last two possessions we gave up drives because we can’t keep the ball out of the paint,” he said.
“Because of that, we’re scrambling around, and we’re trying to close out hard and challenge threes; we’re passing up shooters, we can’t block ’em out ’cause we’re out of control,” he added. “It all comes back to our on-ball D.”
Burnet missed a pair of close-range baskets in the last 1:15 of the game, as Lampasas led 53-52. Then, Jordan Godfrey nailed a three-pointer for the Bulldogs, giving them a 55-53 advantage with about 20 seconds left.
The Badgers drove to the basket but had a charge called against them with just under 10 seconds to go. That charge was only the fifth foul of the half, and the Badgers had to foul two more times to send Burnet to the line, leaving just 1.16 seconds on the clock.
The Bulldogs missed their final attempt, but Lampasas had no time to score.
Burnet stayed undefeated in district at 4-0. Liberty Hill is in second, at 3-0.
Now in fifth place, the Badgers will have to fight hard after two disappointing losses.
“You’ve just got to put your big-boy pants on and get back to work the next day,” Nuckles said Tuesday night. “I know one thing: if we don’t show up and go to work tomorrow, we’re gonna lose [Friday against] Liberty Hill.”
The past two games have driven home what Nuckles has tried to emphasize to his team, which was the district champion last season.
“You will get everybody’s hardest game,” he said. “People just will be better when they show up to play us … People are angry, and they want to beat us.”
Liberty Hill is a guard-heavy team this year. Although the Panthers do not have as much size as in the past, they are strong shooters. Their press defense is their biggest strength, Nuckles said.